Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Limericks (Motif)

Dahl includes short poems in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and in both instances the type of poem is a limerick. Limericks are a type of poem with five lines and a fixed rhythm and rhyme scheme. The poems are often humorous, either simple ones designed for children or bawdy ones for adults. Limericks first appeared in England in the early 18th century, so including these in the story ties the story to Dahl's British upbringing.

Food (Motif)

Food is of utmost importance to all of the characters in Fantastic Mr. Fox, both animals and humans. Dahl uses this as a source of conflict and of comparison, since Mr. Fox and the farmers hate one another mostly due to Mr. Fox stealing food from the farmers' farm (which could be seen negatively as stealing their livelihood or positively as taking vengeance on those who benefit from killing animals). Many scenes in the story include vivid descriptions of the smell, taste, and look of food, which is intensified by the animals' hunger as the farmers try to starve Mr. Fox out of his hole. By making the central conflict of the story about food, Dahl also makes the problem relatable, as even children will have experienced the feeling of being hungry, and at times greedy or jealous of others' food.

The Digging Machines (Symbol)

When the farmers cannot dig fast enough to catch the foxes, they introduce something that they think will definitely beat the foxes: digging machines. These machines are much stronger and faster than the humans, and incredibly destructive for the environment. This symbolizes the way that humans have increasingly used technology, especially in agriculture, to destroy the environment.

However, in this story, the machines still cannot beat the foxes. In this way, Dahl also symbolizes nature's resilience to the impact of humans and modern technology.

The Farmers (Symbol)

Dahl uses the farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean to symbolize humanity and human nature. He depicts them as greedy and lacking compassion for animals and the environment. This contrasts with the way he depicts almost all of the animals as highly moral, intelligent, and skilled (all besides Rat, who could be said to live in the closest contact with humans, and has thus influenced by them to turn mean and greedy).

The Smallest Fox (Symbol)

The Smallest Fox is the last of Mr. Fox's children who remains at the end of their trip to steal from the three farmers. While the other foxes do not get to show much personality, the Smallest Fox makes his mark on the story by telling his father that they should also steal some vegetables for the herbivorous animals coming to their feast. Mr. Fox did not think of this and did not even understand what his child was suggesting at first, showing that the intelligence and compassion of children can surpass that of adults.